Of all the garden ornaments, containers can be the most satisfying way to express one’s artistic leanings. They can transform a drab section of the garden or brighten an apartment balcony. Vast acres and a deep purse are not needed for this hobby. Large containers are indispensable for use as focal points, while the smaller ones are useful for moving around or filling in seasonal gaps in beds.
Various containers grouped imaginatively can have an immediate impact on a bare concrete path or patio. While large urns or wooden tubs should be positioned with care (and once placed are difficult to move), smaller pots can be constantly moved to suit a gardener’s whim. The advantage of large containers is that they allow the gardener to create bold, lavish designs and if planted with a long term shrub can provide year-long interest. Fox example, a large urn with a centerpiece of either clipped rosemary or a small Alberta spruce with cascading verbena can be striking. Large containers lined up and planted uniformly make a useful boundary marker; this method could be used to break up bare expanses of wall.
Garage sales can turn up a surprising number of quirky and unusual containers. Old tin buckets, milk pails, and watering cans with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage would make an interesting centerpiece for a cluster of small pots. Daisy-like flowers such as gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta) or Coreopsis “Sunray” create a more informal look.
On an apartment balcony, a sense of summer can be evoked by using pots of various sizes and planting them with perennials and annuals. Perennials such as lavender, marguerite, and pincushion flowers are but a few of the myriad choices. A north-facing balcony could have pots filled with impatiens or begonias. Ferns incorporated into this shady scheme would add textural contrast.
Vegetables in Containers:
Certain vegetables will grow happily in pots–another boon for the sunny balcony. Voracious slugs and their equally repulsive brethren are less prevalent in container-grown vegetables. Lettuce (buttercrunch), spring onions, and radishes will make a nice little salad. While you might not be able to feed ravenous guests with the modest output of your little garden, it will give you a sense of satisfaction when you snip a lettuce, parsley, and spring onions. Tomatoes too can be grown successfully in a container; the taller plants might need staking.
- Containers must have adequate drainage. Place a few small stones over the drainage hole to prevent soil seepage.
- Mix half cow and compost and potting soil to fill container to within a few inches of the top.
- The plants should be well-watered before planting. Plant in the cool of the evening. After planting, sprinkle with Osmacote or any slow release fertilizer. Water gently but thoroughly every morning and evening during hot spells.
A classical urn.
Another Classical Urn.
Annuals in a variety of pots.
A charming cluster of stone pots and baskets.
Breathes there anyone with a soul so dead,
Who would not admire a perennial bed?
Most of us start gardening too late in life. When we are young and sprightly, we have too many other interests. The middle years are taken up with furthering our careers and/or raising families, so that by the time we should be hitting our stride, our stride has turned into a totter; bones are creaking and backs are aching. The spirit might be willing, but the knees are weak. However, it’s never too late to start. Procrastinating about doing a project is like looking at a wheelbarrow; nothing will happen until we start pushing.
Planning a Large New Border:
Study the photos in gardening books then choose the layout and the plants you most admire within them. Like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, we must use the “little grey cells” in order to choose the best plants. Picture this large border as a stage and like Cecil B. de Mille you’ll soon be directing a cast of hundreds.
Roses are reddish,
Violets are bluish,
But they won’t grow in soil that’s glueish!
Gardening is 10% preparation and 90% perspiration; most of the latter comes from digging.
- Make sure the soil is soaked but not soggy.
- The tines of the fork should go in the full length. Large clumps should be broken up with the back of the fork or spade.
- Spread large amounts of compost, peat, and manure then dig again. The soil will become friable. (For a vivid example of this, read page 39 of Too Late for Regrets.)
Place the plants in the area where the holes are to be dug. Move them around until you’re happy with the result. Container plants bought from the nursery might have become rootbound; tease out some of the roots and spread them out before planting. Water thoroughly, and make sure that any weeds appearing are eradicated promptly.
- Aurinia (Basket of Gold) – low growing, mid-spring
- Rock Cress (Arabis) – showy racemes of pure white, late spring. Ideal for rock gardens.
- Centranthus Ruber (Jupiter’s Beard) – has upright stems bearing fluffy clusters of pink flowers. 2 feet, needs staking.
- Rudbeckia (Goldsturm) – Black-eyed Susan. Stunning orange flowers with a black center. Shasta daisy makes a spectacular splash of white, mid-summer.
- Coreopsis (Tickseed) – “Early Sunrise,” “Sunray,” charming yellow flowers at the end of wiry stems, 1-2 feet
- Heliopsis (Helianthus) – False sunflower, long blooming, 2-3 feet. Plant at rear.
- Phlox Paniculata (Garden Phlox) – “Eva Cullum,” exquisite clusters of deep pink flowers on sturdy stems, stake. 2 feet, mid-late summer.
- Aster Frikartii – lilac daisy-like flowers, late summer
Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)
Stacys 1.5 Feet, Upright Stems
Achillea (Yarrow) “Paprika”
Sandwort, Early Summer, Low Growing
A Well-Planned Perennial Bed
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
If you give good advice, it will never be remembered.
If you give bad advice, it will never be forgotten.
A small fountain among the flowers.
The ornaments in the garden should be a reflection of your own unique taste. The correct placement of urns, fountains, or statues can transform an ordinary area into a conversation piece. Unsuitable, pretentious objects look out of place in a small suburban garden; unwise and expensive mistakes might haunt you for years. Only death will relieve you of the obligation of having to view these regrettable choices every time you venture into the garden.
Which is the garden ornament–the stone bench or its adorable canine companion?
If possible, small children should not accompany you on these buying trips. Children have notoriously bad taste. Instead of the divine container you originally set out to buy, you might be inveigled into purchasing a carload of grotesque gnomes, pink flamingos, or other kitschy knick-knacks.
Friends can also give wrong advice. You might find yourself gazing onto your small garden at a massive stone lion’s head, or a fountain more suitable for the Palace of Versailles. On that note, avoid friends who use the word “cute” to describe hideous objects. This is a word appropriate only for babies, puppies, or newly hatched chicks.
A stone trough with intricate designs is the perfect home to display your favorite flowers.
Do you have any neighbors, friends, or family who refuse to take down hideous garden ornaments? Or have you ever made an impulsive purchase of a less-than-ideal garden arrangement? What is the worse ornament you’ve ever seen? I want to hear your garden horror stories in the comments below!